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MRE Bag Design

MRE Design Logo

MREs (Meals, Ready-to-Eat) were first introduced for use in the US military in 1981. Since then, the original simple brown MRE bag has undergone two major and several minor updates. The first major update occurred in 1996 and changed the color of the bag from dark brown to a tan color and introduced new bag graphics. Then in 2008, three new graphic designs for the MREs were set to be introduced while the bag color remained the same.

MRE Bag Design Changes

Here's a timeline of the changes to the MRE bags::

1981 - Original MRE bag introduced
1988 - Large menu numbers added to the sides of the MRE bags
1995 - Last year the dark brown MRE bags used
1996 - New tan bags, fonts, and graphics introduced
2001 - Two notices added to the bags: "U.S. Government Property" and "Commercial Resale Is Unlawful"
2003 - New notice added to the bags: "Flameless Ration Heaters Are Prohibited On Commercial Airlines Unless Sealed In Original MRE Menu Bag"
2007 - Last year for the old graphics
2008 - Three new graphic designs introduced for MRE bags. Bag color remains tan.

MRE Bags Over the Years

1981 - First MREs
1981 MRE
1982 MRE
1986 MRE
1988 - Menu numbers added to side
1995 - Last year for brown bags
1988 MRE
1991 MRE
1995 MRE
1996 - New bag color, design
2001 - Govt. Property, Resale notices
2007 - Last year for current design?
1996 MRE
2001 MRE
2007 MRE

MRE Bag Design Specifications

Each year, the Defense Supply Center, Philadelphia (DSCP) publishes a new set of specifications for the production and packaging of MREs. These specs are called "Assembly Contract Requirements" or ACRs. Inside each ACR is a design of how the MRE bag is supposed to look. While color codes and spacing are specified, exact fonts to be used are not.

Here are a few of the most recent ACR specs for MRE bags:

2001 ACE Spec
2003 ACR Spec
2004+ ACR Spec

A note about Ameriqual:

2003 Ameriqual MRE

Of the three major MRE manufacturers, Ameriqual is the only one who does not produce an MRE bag according to the ACR specs.

To the left is a typical Ameriqual MRE. Notice how it has a repeating bag design, not just a single design per bag.

The picture on the right shows an Ameriqual MRE next to a Sopakco MRE.

Ameriqual vs. Sopakco MREs

New 2008 MRE Bag Designs

In 2006, the US Army Natick Soldier RD&E Center began evaluating new graphic designs for the MRE bags. They started off with 18 new designs and weeded that list down to 9 designs. Further review brought the list down to 5 designs (as seen in "Design Testing" below) and those designs were "field tested" with soldiers to see which ones they preferred. Natick finally picked the three best designs and decided to use all three in the new MREs.

In the 2008 Assembly Contract Requirements, the DSCP specifies these three new graphic designs for the MRE bags. Each design will be on four MREs in each case. You can see the breakdown of the designs and which menus they will be on below:

Design #1
(Menus 1-4, 13-16 )
Design #2
(Menus 5-8, 17-20 )
Design #3
(Menus 9-12, 21-24)
2008 Design 1
2008 Design 2
2008 Design 3
Sample Bag
Sample Bag
Sample Bag
2008 Design 1
2008 Design 2
2008 Design 3

New Design Testing

Five new designs were tested in late 2006:
Test Design 1Test Design 2Test Design 3Test Design 4Test Design 5

How those designs scored compared to the current design:
Test Results
Circled numbers indicate highest scores

Based on cost and the risk of off-set printing errors, the final designs were changed slightly from the test designs above to allow for the use of only one color. This is most noticeable in test case #5 in the word "MRE" and in the loss of the faded background on the other test cases.